Is it council’s business to endorse a vote on a Voice to Parliament?

Susanna Freymark

Later this year, Australians will vote at a referendum about a Voice to Parliament.

At the Kyogle Council meeting on Monday, July 10, a motion on the Voice was passed.

Here’s the motion councillors voted on after a lot of discussion:

1. That Council accepts the invitation of the First Nations People to walk with them by supporting the YES vote in the referendum to establish a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution.

2. That Council endorses the referendum on creating an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament by providing information to the community in the council newsletter and website, and takes opportunities to partner with agencies, local Aboriginal elders and community in presenting information on the referendum to community members

The referendum will be a Yes or No about whether to change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

The Voice would be an independent and permanent advisory body. It would give advice to the Australian Parliament and Government on matters that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Councillor Maggie May added the second part of the motion. She said it was council’s “responsibility as a leader in our local community to model what we would like to see happen”.

“It’s important our nation accepts the very peaceful request from First Nations people,” she said.

“It is long overdue. It’s going to be up to the Australian people.”

Ms May wanted people to be able to get good information from reliable sources such as the council’s newsletter and website “to allow elders and community members to put some perspectives forward.”

Councillor Janet Wilson said how “we vote as individuals is no one else’s business”.

“It’s very simple for me – the history of my family is the history of dispossession of Aboriginal people,” Ms Wilson said.

She was clear that council support the Yes vote and that individuals make up their own mind.

Councillor Tom Cooper said that for the Aboriginal people he had talked to it was 50-50 in favour or not of the Voice.

“They have seen a referendum on whether we become a republic fail,” he said.

“They are worried about the repercussions of this.

“I, myself, will vote Yes – absolutely. It is a personal opinion.”

There was a lengthy discussion among councillors and council staff about whether it was up to the council to support a Yes or No vote.

Councillor James Murray said it was not council business.

“In my mind council should stay out of politics,” he said.

“This is for the people to decide.”

Councillor Danielle Mulholland said the majority of councils are supporting the Yes vote.

“We won’t be flying solo,” Ms Mulholland said.

Ms May said she’d feel ashamed of Kyogle Council if they weren’t brave enough to support a Voice.

“This referendum will send a message to the world about how mature we are,” Ms May said.

At the end of the discussion, the motion with the amendment about informing people about the Voice was passed.

Further information on the referendum, including the proposed referendum question and constitutional amendment, can be found here.

Listen to the podcast of the July 10 council meeting. Find the meeting agenda and relevant attachments here.

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